Seeking Mental Health Help for the First Time #Write31Days

31 Days of Mental Health

When you feel you may suffer with a mental health conditon, you may want to seek mental health help. This is a very hard step that takes a lot of courage. I mean, there’s still a lot of stigma surrounding mental health problems, so you may feel awkward asking for help for something that’s “all in your head”.

When I took my first steps into the mental health system, it wasn’t by my own initiative. People with more severe mental illness relatively often find themselves being dragged into the system by other people. In my case, it was my staff at the training home for disabled people I resided at who took the initiative to send me to a psychiatrist.

In most countries, you’ll need a referral from your GP or another medical doctor (or sometimes a psychologist) to see a psychiatrist. I went to my GP for the referral, but couldn’t speak at all. I was totally locked up inside. It was my staff member who asked for the referral.

Once you see a mental health professional, the next step is telling them why you are seeing them. This may be hard too. Some people with more severe mental illness do not have insight into their illness. I didn’t when I was first seen by a psychiatrist, and that’s while I studied psychology at the time. Even if you do think you know what’ss wrong with you, it may be hard to articulate. Yu may feel shame, but you also may feel like you have trouble looking at your mental processes. I did. Many mental health professionals, especially those working with the severely mentally ill, will be understanding of this.

The mental health professional may ask you whether you have any idea of what type of help you’d like yourself. Don’t worry if you don’t have an answer to this. Most mental health professionals will understand that you may not have a clear understanding of what help you want, let alone what’s available or most effective with your problems. Particularly when you are severely or acutely mentally ill, the psychiatrist may have to give you limited options or recommend a particular treatment. For example, when I saw a psychiatrist about going on medication in the summer of 2007, she offered me two choices, one I’d come up with myself and another that she felt would be better suited. I chose to go along with her recommendation. Remember, as the patient, you have the right to informed consent, but you aren’t the expert on mental illness and its treatment. You know you best, but the psychiatrist knows what tends to work with your particular type of problems.


8 thoughts on “Seeking Mental Health Help for the First Time #Write31Days

  1. I soought mental health help for the first time about 7 or 8 years ago and it was hard. My doctor couldn;t tell me where to go or who to try to see, and it was a friend who listened to me cry for hours who made dozens of phone calls to finally find a place I could go and be seen. The first visit with the nurse and the very intrusive interview was horrible. I was scared. I felt judged. I was trying not to cry or throw up. BUT! now that I’ve been on a medicated schedule that works for me and I am regularly seeing a psych doctor that I trust and am comfortable with, I am glad for every hurdle I made myself cross to get here. My life is so much better now that I asked for help and made sure I got it. I’m happier, healthier, more stable, and most of my life is in order now. No more destructive behaviors. It was absolutely worth the hard parts.


    1. Oh, I’m so sorry it was so hard for you to get the right help. I’m glad you eventually found someone whom you could trust and who could get you on the right path to recovery.


  2. I’m so glad that you were able to find help, Astrid! Mental health issues are definitely not very understood here in the US–especially by the insurance companies with mental health coverage.


  3. I like the refreshing honesty and kindness of this post. I wish there were access to mental health services for everyone who needs them, but sadly sometimes money is an issue. I encourage everyone who feels the need, to seek help anyway. There is no need to feel shame about pursuing mental health treatment. The author is right, it does take courage, and is much more proactive and empowering than giving up and allowing the illness to take over one’s life.


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